Research Project

Stefanich, Sara

Doctoral Dissertation Research: Phonological Aspects of Word-Internal Spanish/English Codeswitching

Principal Investigator
Stefanich, Sara
Funding Source
National Science Foundation


This dissertation takes a laboratory phonology approach to intraword code switching (CS) to determine the minimum linguistic unit within which a bilingual can combine elements from their two phonological systems. Previous research on intraword CS considers two potential types of switches: morphological and phonological. For the purpose of this project, morphological switches consist of a switch between a verbal root and its affixes (derivational and inflectional). Morphological switches are common and attested within the literature (e.g. MacSwan 2000).  On the other hand, it has been claimed that a phonological switch between a root and its affixes is not possible (Bandi-Rao & DenDikken, 2014; MacSwan, 2000; MacSwan & Colina, 2014). Instead, a morphologically switched word is predicted to evidence only one phonology, and impressionistic data suggest that morphologically switched words employ only the phonology of the language of the affixes. However, there is no experimental evidence to confirm the proposed ban on intraword phonological switches. This project examines intraword switches of early Mexican Spanish/English bilinguals via two experiments. The first is a production study that examines the phonetic realization of CS verbs (here, verbs with an English-like nonce root and Spanish affixes). Specifically, it investigates whether these bilinguals produce English segments in the (English-like) root of a CS verb. The English phonemes under investigation are /z/, /θ/, and /ɪ/, which crucially do not have phonemic status in Mexican Spanish. The second experiment is an acceptability judgment task in which participants evaluate the phonology of morphologically switched words with three types of phonological compositions. Participants evaluate auditory stimuli consisting of a) English phonology in the root and Spanish phonology in the affixes, b) English phonology only, c) Spanish phonology only. These experiments will inform whether bilinguals produce phonologically switched words and accept phonologically switched words as licit outputs in a CS grammar.